Study: two spaces after a period makes reading easier


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/07/study-two-spaces-after-a-peri.html


#2

It’d be really interesting to see what it did with a proportional font, since spaces tend to be much smaller in those. Two spaces would probably be equivalent to one space in mono or so, so will it give rise to four spacers? Personally I do one period and I spend the vast majority of my time in mono mode: emacs is a nice text editor :wink:


#3

Monospaced fonts are still used heavily by, for example, coders. Double spaced fixed width font is, IIRC, still even today the standard for submitting manuscripts to publishers. For which one should use two spaces after a period.

ETA: double spaced fixed width is indeed the standard for paper manuscripts. For electronic submissions, every publication has different rules, but they pretty much all want double spaced, 12 point font. Some want a specific proportional font, some want a monospaced font (I assume because they still print submissions out at some point in their process), others leave it up to the author.


#4

Put me down for team “It’s actually called a Full Stop.”


#5

It’s an aesthetic choice, not a moral one. I have always found readability SLIGHTLY improved by extra space, but not enough under normal circumstances to get up in arms about. I grew up with double spacing, like I grew up with nine planets, and so that is still the way that I tend to think. What irritates me though, is the blatant lie that double spaces date to monospaced fonts on typewriters. You can find plenty of printed works some that pre-date the typewriter which have a little bit of extra space after every period. Putting two entire spaces after the period was intended to imitate this, although it leads to a much broader gap between sentences. Indeed, I have always thought that in a perfect world, the period on the typewriter key should be offset to the left to give you a little bit of extra space without having to hit the spacebar twice.

It is interesting that the other big change in accepted text layout since I was a kid has not elicited this sort of crazy hate: Whether to indicate paragraphs by indenting the first line or skipping a line.


#6

I’m leaving a single space right now, just to piss off Joey.


#7

The signs in the XKCD cartoon would be more convincing as sentences (complete with punctuation) rather than noun clauses. When I was young, protest signs were about telling people what to do.

I do 90% of my writing in LaTeX, and the class file determines how much spacing to put between sentences, so I tend to revert with my early training, which is 80 characters per line and one line per card.


#8

Every submission guideline out there says indent. Skipping a line is only useful when you’re creating a single spaced document, which is verboten for submitting manuscripts of any type.


#9

Not surprised by the study at all. It had always seemed pretty obvious to me that double-spacing improves readability.


#10

Arg! Sucked into the debate. It seems obvious to me that double space is better in low contrast situations, like with monospaced fonts and single space is better in long bodies of text.

I have some older books that use triple space or double em. Hideous for reading.


#11

That is basically what variable width fonts do. But they do it in a way that when you write a domain name or decimal you aren’t putting unnecessary space in there.


#12

Well there’s your problem.


#13

That’s a great idea!


#14

When you write in LaTeX, Donald Knuth will interrogate the mind of your readers and automatically presents the text in the best form for each reader (where best is defined by DK and is unlikely to overlap with the conscious preference of said reader).

(I prefer to write in LaTeX, although I spend more time in Word these days)


#15

Like any normal person would.

His freedom fighter is their terrorist. You are a pervert.

Seriously, though, whether one or two spaces after a full stop is better almost entirely depends on the context, such as publication/document type, layout, line spacing, purpose, intended audience, and so on and on and on. Anyone who believes one or the other is always abnormal needs to find another religious war to satisfy their urges for such activity.


#16

For corporate work, it’s always one space. But for myself, it’s always two.

I’m a rebel that way.


#17

I read an article by a screenwriter once who pointed out that at “table reads”, actors frequently stumble over their lines when there’s only one space between sentences. Granted, this isn’t scientific and scripts are still printed with fixed pitch fonts, but it feels truthy. (I would link to the article, but I can no longer find it online.)

Anyway, the question is messed up. It shouldn’t be whether you have one space or two between sentences–nearly everyone agrees that two is too many. But is one enough? The question is whether the intersentence space should be the same size as the interword space. There’s a long typographic history of making intersentence spaces slightly wider than regular spaces, though that’s fading (and I, for one, really miss it).

Lastly, dropping the extra space can lead to ambiguity. These two lines mean slightly different things:

“Run!” I gasped.
“Run!”  I gasped.

The extra space in the second is the only way to distinguish them.


#18

Am I really the first to post this?


#19

I’m Fully Stopped, right now


#20

Much like people who flip their wig over which way the toilet paper unrolls, you hothouse flowers really must lead sheltered lives. WHO CARES!? Just be glad you have toilet paper at all, and just be glad you’re not typing on mimeograph carbon-paper thingies.